President's Column - June 2017

This is one of my all-time favorite inspirational sayings. For those of you who don’t recognize it, these words from Pirke Avot, attributed to Rabbi Tarfon, may be translated as, "You are not required to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it." I have a beautiful calligraphy version of this statement hanging in my home office and positioned so that I can always see it from my desk as I’m working.

These words have taken on a particular poignancy as I reflect on my time as your President at TBT. Over the last two years, I have tried to be a responsible steward for our synagogue. I have worked to the best of my capacity to lead, inspire, goad (as necessary), nag (we are Jewish, after all), occasionally entertain, and always listen with openness, respect, and sincerity. I have made so many new friends; strengthened and enriched existing relationships; and occasionally, strained a few along the way as well.

I feel that we have accomplished much together, worshipped and learned and celebrated together; and yet there is still so much more to do. The work, indeed, is never done. The next group of synagogue leaders will pick up where this group has left off. It is a beautiful thing, to consider so many people allied in the service of one mission, the prosperity and vitality of our Jewish community, but it works only as long as YOU work. There is no "they" here; we ALL must do our part, step up in the service of TBT, if we are to thrive and grow. One does not require a long CV replete with experience in Jewish or other non-profit organizational life: the only job requirements are a desire to contribute and a willingness to partner with others. There are so many opportunities to serve here at TBT, at every level and at every degree of time commitment. Don’t be afraid. There is no better way to get to know our fellow congregants, make lasting friendships, learn more about Judaism, learn more about yourself.

I am immensely grateful to Rabbi Offner and Cantor Margolius, who lead by example, teach, and inspire us always; the wise counsel and deep commitment of the members of the Boards of Directors with whom I’ve been privileged to work; and especially Kim Romine and Bonnie Mahon, who never cease to amaze with their grace, kindness, positive attitude, and love for our House of Hope.

We should never take what we have here for granted. It is a special place filled with special people. Let us continue to build from strength to strength.

Stu Weinzimer

Rabbi's Column - June 2017

Editor’s Note: These remarks were first shared on the occasion of TBT’s 40th Annual Meeting.

On September 2, 1971, there was a short article in the Shoreline Times that changed the lives of each one of us. The article was headlined: "Jewish Congregation." The article read:

The Shoreline Jewish Community Congregation will meet at the Grove School dining

room on Friday, September 10th at 8pm. Those who have not been contacted may

call Mrs. Barbara Sklaire for further information.

Thus Temple Beth Tikvah was born. 46 years ago. Six years later, land was purchased and a building was constructed. This building. It wasn’t a given.

The founders - our founders - didn’t have a map with precise instructions. Should we build a building? Maybe we should just buy books. Bricks or books? Given the choice, I would choose books every time.

But maybe it is not simply a choice. Maybe we need the bricks to house the books. We need the building to house the people. We need a sanctuary that God might dwell amongst us.

I confess: looking back over this past year, there are moments when it doesn’t feel like God is present. Moments of strife. Moments of challenge. Moments of administrivia.

The holiest moments are so clear: when we filled this sanctuary to over-flowing for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. When we built our Sukkah out on our deck and packed the deck for services. When we had one of our largest Passover seders on record and filled this Social Hall with Pesach spirit and matza balls.

But God doesn’t need holidays to join us. Every time we have the opportunity to say hello to someone we haven’t met before, God is present. When we try new ideas, like our Jewish Mindfulness and Meditation practice, God is present. When we bring MahJongg into the library on Friday afternoons, God is present.

Our Religious School boasts over 100 children, our Sunday morning Tefillah is robust with singing and prayer. Our Nursery School children spell L-O-V-E with every smile. Our staff cares for each other and cares for you in ways beyond measure.

Bricks or Books? Building or People? A little 3-letter-word helps us answer the question. The word is A-N-D. Bricks AND Books. Building AND People.

We hope to care for our building by making it more welcoming, more inclusive, more accessible, and lighter, warmer, and more open.

Most important of all, remember that it only matters to the extent that we, the people, become more welcoming, more inclusive, more accessible, and lighter, warmer, and more open. I believe that we have grown in all of these attributes over the past year, and I hope we will continue the trend in the year ahead.

Rabbi Offner

President's Column - May 2017

Well, we’ve been talking about it long enough, but now it’s here, finally. Spring? Yes, that too, but I’m referring to our big 40th anniversary bash. A chance to pause from all our hard work in our "day jobs" and our hard work here at TBT, to just enjoy each other’s company. Catch up with old friends, make new friends, remind ourselves of one of the most important aspects of TBT - a place to just be together.

There will be many moments at the anniversary party to reflect on our origins as a community and our future, but I would just like to use this space to thank some people who were so critical in making this moment happen. First of all, our Programming Chair, Gary Damiano, who oversaw all of the event planning, from the food, to the flow, to the decorations. Also big Todah Rabbah to Suzy Frisch, Shaun Glazier, Jill Lesage, Judy Merriam, Bonnie Stoddard, all our silent auction contributors, and of course, Kim Romine and Bonnie Mahon, who as usual handle it all with grace and a smile.

I hope to see you ALL that weekend, leading off with our special Shabbat service that Friday, and then Saturday too. And if that wasn’t enough, I hope that you will ALSO join us Sunday, May 7th, at 9:30 AM, for our annual congregational meeting, during which time we will review important TBT business such as approving our budget, electing our next Board of Directors, and honoring our Kavod Award and Friesner scholarship recipients. We will, of course, have food (after all, it is a Jewish event), and if you would love to hear live Jewish music, stay for Tefilah afterwards and join our religious school students in some spirited prayer.

- Stu Weinzimer

Rabbi's Column - May 2017

Dear Friends,

We are in the season of counting the Omer. We do lots of counting in our lives. We count the days until vacation. We count the years of our lives by marking birthdays and anniversaries. We count our money to make sure we have enough to pay our bills. We count the Omer to make a connection between the freedom that became ours at Passover and the 10 Commandments that we will receive on Shavuot.

How do we count from freedom to responsibility? An ‘omer’ is actually a measure of grain and traditionally the counting of the omer was a harvest activity. The counting of the omer has become more of a spiritual practice today. Counting is itself an act of consciousness-raising. There are 49 days between Passover and Shavuot, making a precise 7 weeks of 7 days. Each week of counting is guided by a spiritual principle. The seven principles are: loving, kindness, justice/discipline, endurance, humility, bonding/connection, and leadership.

The rabbis believe that every human being is comprised of these seven basic principles. They also believed that all forms of enslavement, at root, come from a distortion of these principles. None of us is perfect and therefore we are all ‘slaves’ to something. By focusing with intention on each of these principles, we can strive to free ourselves from those imperfections that enslave us.

We are counting the days now until the celebration of our 40th anniversary here at TBT. Our celebration takes place during the 5th week of the Omer when we reflect upon building and connection. How perfect that our attention is drawn to that which truly makes TBT strong. It is not the building itself but the bonds and connections made between the people who comprise TBT that makes us strong.

We will celebrate those connections in wonderful ways over the course of the weekend of May 12th and 13th. At Friday night services on May 12th, Rabbi Hesch Sommer will be our guest speaker. Rabbi Sommer was TBT’s rabbi for 26 years, from 1982-2008. He will offer his reflections on the history of TBT from his unique vantage point.

Our Saturday evening celebration fittingly falls not only during the counting of the Omer, but precisely on "Lag BaOmer," a holiday celebrated on the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. Modern Jewish tradition links the holiday of Lag BaOmer to the Bar Kokhaba Revolt against the Roman Empire. Lag BaOmer is celebrated as a symbol of the strength of the Jewish spirit. So too the strength of TBT’s spirit is such that it grows stronger each day as we evolve to meet the needs of today’s Jewish community and to dream about tomorrow’s.

I am excited to celebrate with you on May 12th and May 13th as we reflect upon our past, dream about our future, and celebrate our present.

Rabbi Offner

President's Column - April 2017

As this issue of the Shofar reaches you, we have just completed the Book of Exodus in our Torah cycle and are starting the first parsha of Leviticus, Vayikra, meaning "And G-d called." As the Rabbi and Cantor can tell you, it seems as if every chapter in the Book of Leviticus starts with "And G-d spoke to Moses..." Indeed, there is a lot of speaking in Leviticus. In order to successfully forge and maintain a thriving community, there has to be a lot of talking.

I would like to thank all of you who came out to our Congregational Conversation to come talk with us about your vision of TBT. We learned so much about what TBT means to you, why you are here, and what your hopes and dreams are for the future. Our Mission-Vision committee is putting together the learnings from these conversations with the results of our Congregational Mission Survey, and over the next few weeks will be drafting a new Mission Statement for TBT, which, once approved by the Board, will be shared with the congregation at our annual meeting in May.

At our Conversation we also heard your ideas and opinions about our building, and how you think it should evolve to meet our needs in the coming generation. Preliminary work by our Building Committee has identified several key areas to focus our attention, and many of these same ideas were echoed by you at the Conversation. More importantly, you also gave us some additional points to consider in our planning. And most importantly, we are still at the beginning of this process; your continued input is not only welcomed it is essential.

As I said, to maintain a healthy community, there has to be a lot of talking. And even more listening. We are definitely listening to your thoughts, ideas, and opinions, as we continuously strive to grow together. I hope you will continue to be active and engaged, not only with your ideas, but also with your participation.

Stu Weinzimer

Rabbi's Column - April 2017


Dear Friends,

There is a post that has been spreading on Facebook that I find particularly poignant. So poignant, that I want to share a piece of the message with you here. The point of the message is that the world is complicated and as political intransigence leads more to black and white ‘sides,’ we need reminders that no one is, thinks, or does strictly ‘black’ or ‘white.’

In fact, we can be neither all black nor all white. Even more, we can be both black and white at the same time. As the anonymous Facebook message reminds us:

For all you who aren’t sure, it is possible to be gay and Christian. It is also possible to believe in God and science. It is possible to be pro-choice and anti-abortion.

It is equally possible to be a feminist and love and respect men. It’s possible to have privilege and be discriminated against, to be poor and have a rich life, to not have a job and still have money.

It is possible to believe in sensible gun control legislation and still believe in one’s right to defend one’s self, family, and property. It is possibleto be anti-war and pro-military.

It is possible to love they neighbor and despise his actions. It is possible to advocate Black Lives Matter and still be pro-police. It is possible to not have an education and be brilliant. It is possible to be Muslim and also suffer at the hands of terrorists. It is possible to be a non-American fighting for the American dream.

Then there is Linda Sarsour who has yet to learn this important lesson. For those of you who don’t know, Linda Sarsour was one of the organizers for the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st. Linda Sarsour is a feminist and a Palestinian. Linda Sarsour also, in a very crude and philosophically deceitful statement, has made the claim that you cannot be both a feminist and a Zionist. Excuse me? Linda Sarsour has just denied the existence of almost every Jewish woman I know.

We must shout out very clearly that some of the best feminists in the world are Zionists, and some of the best Zionists in the world are feminists.

Because I do believe that we are all complicated packages of what can sometimes appear as contradictions, I must also point out that the same Linda Sarsour was behind the Muslim raising of funds to repair the Jewish cemetery in St. Louis that was viciously desecrated. I am appreciative of that action. But we cannot allow it to temper our disgust at the claim that Zionism and feminism are mutually exclusive.

It is equally possible to appreciate Linda Sarsour’s concern about anti-Semitism in St. Louis and to deplore her own anti-Semitic claims about Zionism and feminism. Deplore them we do.

Rabbi Offner

President's Column - March 2017

I hope by now everyone reading this column is aware of our special Congregational Conversation 2017, which we will hold this Sunday, March 5th, in the Social Hall. The main purposes of this Conversation are to hear your thoughts and views on the present and the future of TBT, and to discuss how we are planning to get there with your help. We are capitalizing on this special moment in our synagogue’s history to take stock of our mission and our edifice and how they may need to be updated to continue to serve us.

While it may be easier to see why we need to update our building, it may be a little more challenging to consider why we may need to update our mission - aren’t we still Jews? Don’t we want to continue to pray, learn, and get together for activities? We’re not suddenly going to decide not to have services or religious school any longer, are we? Do we even need a mission statement?

I feel, of course, that yes, we do. Over the last forty years, even the last ten or twenty years, our lives have changed. And that pace of change is accelerating exponentially. A guiding statement should speak about our core values RIGHT now, the goals we share, and should help serve as a template for how we make our decisions about TBT. It should speak to our hearts about what moves us.

You may find our existing mission statement through our website at I believe it describes many of the things that we do at TBT and will continue to do at TBT; but I don’t think it really captures the real HEART of what makes TBT special, what binds us together as a community, why we continue to return. And personally, I believe it describes a one-way relationship: what TBT will "provide," as if there is a separation between TBT and our congregants. It may be a subtle shift in perspective, but I’d prefer to think about what we can create together, rather than what the synagogue will provide to me, and I think that slight re-interpretation has dramatic repercussions on how we engage here, whether we are passive recipients of TBT life, or active shapers of our community together.

Whether you agree or disagree with my opinion, I am only one opinion. So please come and argue your views with me and with your fellow congregants, and we will supply the bagels and coffee to fuel the conversation.

Stu Weinzimer

Rabbi's Column - March 2017

Dear Friends -

I will be attending the annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis this March in Atlanta. Some of you may be aware of this annual outing; others may be hearing about it for the first time. Let me share with you that being together with 500 rabbinic colleagues is a treat for the spirit.

The CCAR Convention is an opportunity to enhance professional skills and study Torah. It is also an opportunity to spend time with treasured friends. After all, a CCAR Convention is simultaneously a professional conference AND a college reunion. Add to that the fact that we all share deep Jewish values and practices and community and you have a recipe for a meaningful four days.

This year, our convention will focus specifically on "Being a Rabbi in Turbulent Times." We do indeed live in turbulent times and this year we will come together to address some of the most pressing issues of our day: the rise of anti-Semitism, the political landscape at home and in Israel, the tragedy that is Syria, the refugee crisis, and racism in America.

In addition to grappling with tough issues, we come together for prayer every day (not on Shabbat, however -- as Rabbis, we all have to be home for Shabbat!).

I feel so blessed to be a Rabbi and to be the Rabbi of Temple Beth Tikvah, where we can come together as a community to look at our lives through the lens of being Jews and foucs on the intersection of Judaism and ethics. Nothing replenishes me for that holy task more than our annual CCAR Convention. Being in Atlanta this year gives us the extra opportunity to focus specifically on Civil Rights and Atlanta’s own heritage in that realm.

I will be at the CCAR Convention March 19-22. I look forward to sharing a report from CCAR with all of you upon my return at Shabbat Services on March 31st.

Rabbi Offner

President's Column - February 2017

As I write this column, I’m sitting in the back of an Uber in our nation’s Capitol, the brightly and dramatically illuminated Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials proclaiming both the optimism and the gravity of the American Experiment. In two days, this now peaceful locale will be overrun by swarms of people: a new leader will be inaugurated, amidst cheers and protests, and our country will move forward, hopefully remaining anchored to the ideals and principles that made us great. With every new administration, we have the opportunity, as a nation, to imagine new goals and aspirations, to reinterpret our founding principles in a way that speaks to our core values. We act as we believe; it is up to us as a nation to determine how that will look.

So too, do we find ourselves at TBT, poised on the threshold of something new. The recognition of our 40th anniversary is admittedly somewhat imposed; why not 36? Why not 50? But there is a wonderful Biblical significance to the number 40: the number of days of the Flood, the number of years of our Wandering, among many other examples. Forty represents a generation, a "trial" period. We at TBT have not only survived our trial period in the wilderness of the Shoreline, but have thrived. Our core value of serving as an outpost of Jewish life on the Shoreline has enabled us to grow a vibrant community, thanks to the hard work of a generation of engaged, committed congregants.

Next month, on Sunday, March 5th, I invite you to join us in a special Congregational conversation, as we gather to determine the path of our next 40 years. We will have the chance to re-imagine and restate our Mission and Vision for TBT, reiterate our core values, wrestle with new dreams and aspirations, imagine what our home may look like, and recommit to this Experiment begun over 40 years ago while continually moving forward.

Let us act as we believe.

Stu Weinzimer

Rabbi's Column - February 2017

Dear Friends,

I do not know what "went into the water" this February, but we have an extraordinary - and wonderful "problem" of having a year’s worth of wonderful events that are all taking place in the span of one

February week. We have fully FOUR all-congregational events between February 5th and February 12th. Each event is announced in the pages of this Shofar, but I want to take the opportunity to highlight each one of them for you so you can take full advantage.

We begin on Sunday, February 5th, with an opportunity to interact with one of the hottest items in New York City today. Due to the fortunate coincidence of having an ‘in’ via temple member Rosemary Baggish, we have been able to arrange to have Liz Alpern appear here at TBT. Liz is the renowned author of The Gefilte Manifesto, which is a cookbook dedicated to taking old world Jewish foods and making them into contemporary dishes. The event will come with mimosas and samplings of recipes that will be cooked by TBT members. A fantastic way to spend a Sunday morning!

"Phone call for you," the office said, and I picked up the phone. On the other end of the line was Judy Diamondstein, the Executive Director of Federation, asking if TBT would like to host JJ Goldberg and Jonathan Tobin for a special event. "Are you kidding me?!?!?!" I asked incredulously. JJ Goldberg and Jonathan Tobin are two of the brightest thinkers around when it comes to parsing the thorny issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. JJ Goldberg is the editor-at-large of Forward, and Jonathan Tobin is an editor and chief political blogger of Commentary Magazine. Getting both of them in the same room at the same time??? They have opposing viewpoints??? How fascinating and refreshing to hear them engage together. Yes! We will host them, on Thursday evening, February 9th.

I am already out of breath, but Friday evening, February 10th is Shabbat Shirah, and how could we not come together to celebrate a most breathtaking musical evening? Cantor Margolius and Cantor Dorothy Goldberg are hard at work planning a fantastic evening which will include guest musicians - and the premier of a piece created by Dorothy. If that wasn’t enough: we will also take the opportunity to celebrate the return of our Sephardic Torah Scroll to our sanctuary after months of repair work that was done by our visiting Soferet last Spring. The Scroll was first given to TBT by Sam & Mary Blank, of beloved memory, and now it will live again as we rededicate it on this evening.

One last spectacular event: our entire greater New Haven Jewish community is coming together on Sunday, February 12th, to honor the 6th yarzheit of singer/songwriter Debbie Friedman. We will convene at the central location of the Towers in New Haven, and the concert will be in absolute Debbie fashion. Debbie was never satisfied with performing and hearing her own voice alone. A concert wasn’t a success until she got everyone in the room singing. And that is just what we will do on February 12th.

So please: Food, Israel, Shabbat, and Song. It is going to be a packed month of very special moments. What a February.

Rabbi Offner